Now July has arrived, and most of the food plants in the gardens are coming along nicely here at Latitude 62. The peak light hours of solstice and lots of bright sunshine makes things grow incredibly fast and sweet. Vegetables grown far north where we live have increased flavour and sweetness - true story.
With not more than a few teasing sprinkles of rain throughout June, many hours of watering every couple of days have been an important task. Continuing to take good care of plants and help them grow better can be done by feeding them every one to two weeks throughout the summer.
Some plants are more hungry than others. The broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages especially will benefit from a good “gourmet” meal in the form of a liquid organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, kelp and compost tea. Many organic liquid fertilizers can be bought online from seed companies like West Coast Seeds. It can also be ordered through Home Building Centre.
I recommend preparing well ahead of the season by having a “medicine cabinet” ready for your soil and plants even before planting – that way you will always be ready to give a healthy boost to your plants if you can see that they are not growing like they could or should.
If you buy these products, make sure to read the instructions so you will know how to mix it and use it. Making your own compost tea is a good growing strategy and can be brewed any time after planting. Any type of compost can be used for making “tea” – simply use a large bucket or trash can without leaks, fill with ¼ compost and ¾ water. Stir well. You can add a few spoons of sugar or syrup to it and this will help the good bacteria in the compost tea to grow. Let this “tea” sit for at least a few days before using. Mix into watering can using one part tea to 10 parts water. Sprinkle directly onto your plants and the roots as well with this “tea”. Within a few days you will likely notice how the plants are getting greener, bigger and more vibrant looking.
For weeks now my garden has been providing greens for my table and I am looking forward to having more and more vegetables and herbs on my plate soon, along with some good local whitefish. By now perhaps your Mesclun mix lettuces, kale, butter lettuces and other types of lettuces might be ready for harvesting right into your salad bowl.
By planting early either in a planter inside the house and moving it outside in late April or early May, I have harvested my first fresh salads as early as May 9 in the Yellowknife area. Mesclun mix can be direct seeded into a planter or in the garden any time throughout the spring and summer. My favourite is Zesty Mix from Vesey’s Seeds, but also the Gourmet Mix from West Coast Seeds grows well. There are hundreds of lettuce mixes available to do your own experiments until you find something you really like.
The key is to keep track of the names (varieties) that you grow and where you bought them so you can repeat the same thing in the future. If you like mustard, there are many excellent mustard mixes that grow well too.
Once the lettuce mix is 2 to 3 inches tall, give it a shower with a watering wand in the morning (field washing) and it will be fresh, clean and ready to harvest by evening for dinner. Bring your scissors and salad bowl to the garden (or other clean container).
With one hand hold a handful of the lettuce while cutting evenly with scissors ½ inch above the roots. This way it will grow right back for continuous harvest throughout the summer. Put it right into the salad bowl and bring it to your dinner table! There is nothing more satisfying than eating truly fresh from a garden that is grown with a caring heart.
Lone Sorensen has lived and grown food in Yellowknife for 27 years.